How will Trump’s Syrian missile strikes affect tensions with Iran?

US missile attack on Syrian regime


THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 4/7/17 – President Trump’s decision to target the Syrian airfields used to carry out Tuesday’s horrific chemical attacks may mark a major change in the direction of the six-year-old Syrian civil war. At the very least, it was a welcome break from the previous administration’s penchant to let Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad off the hook for his war crimes. Still, it will be interesting to see how Trump’s Syrian missile strikes affect tensions with Iran.
In 2013, Assad staged a similar chemical bomb raid against a Damascus suburb. But Obama refrained from taking firm action and instead decided to stay on the sidelines and back off from his ‘red lines.’ The main beneficiaries of this hands-off approach were the Assad regime and Assad’s patrons in Tehran. Assad got away with murder and the Iranian regime got the green light to relentlessly increase its violent meddling in Syria.
Since then, the situation has been on the constant decline. Iran and Assad’s unchecked rampage exacerbated sectarian tensions, killing thousands more and creating the perfect breeding ground for extremist groups such as Islamic State to rise and flourish.
Four years and hundreds of atrocities later, that norm was brought to an end with a volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles that leveled major parts of the al-Shayrat airbase.
Assad himself is too weak a player to be able to influence the dynamics governing Syria and the region. But how will Iran, Assad’s main sponsor, respond? As the state that has invested billions of dollars and thousands of troops to keep Assad in power, Iran will have a major stake in how the U.S.’s involvement in Syria develops and how the fate of the dictator of Damascus unfolds.
Proponents of the appeasement policy will caution against any move that might arouse the ire of the Iranian regime. The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, they argue, will retaliate by walking away from Obama’s landmark nuclear deal or target U.S. troops and interests in Iraq, Syria, and the Persian Gulf.
But contrary to the misleading narrative of the appeasement camp, the facts show that a firm policy works toward containing the Iranian regime. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Iranian regime has scaled down its provocative actions in response to a firm tone from the Trump administration.
As the MEMRI report states, after being put on notice by the Trump administration for its illicit missile test, Iran has since shown ‘considerable military restraint.’ This includes the cancellation of another long-range missile test and a halt to provocations against U.S. Navy vessels.
Public threats against the U.S. have also come to a stop and the ‘death to America’ slogan has disappeared almost entirely from the official discourse of regime spokesmen, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself.
This is a complete turnabout of the Iranian regime’s posture toward the international community, which during Obama’s tenure was an unending cycle of Iranian belligerence met with concessions. Iranian regime officials described Obama’s years as the ‘golden era.’
The Iranian regime and his acolyte tested the resolve of the new White House lineup with another chemical attack against innocent civilians. Thursday’s strike was a firm and well-timed response to bring Assad’s machine of terror to a halt and will help save lives. If the past is any indication, it will also keep the Iranian regime in check and force it to toe the line.
However, more needs to be done. As the National Council of Resistance of Iran underlined in wake of the strike, the Syrian crisis will only end when the Iranian regime is fully evicted from the region and Assad is ousted from power.
With Assad and the mullahs gone from Syria, the Islamic State will also lose its raison d’etre, a key requisite to rooting out Islamic fundamentalism and bringing peace and stability back to the region.
Amir Basiri is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.

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